Geneva - The World Food Program is warning it soon will be forced to suspend food assistance to 1 million people displaced by fighting in Mozambique's volatile Cabo Delgado province without an immediate infusion of cash.
The United Nations food agency said aid will be cut off in February if $51 million is not received. February is the peak of the lean season in Mozambique, when food stocks are at their lowest.
The month is also during the country's cyclone season, a period of great vulnerability.
WFP Country Director and Representative in Mozambique Antonella D'Aprile said that without humanitarian assistance, 1 million desperate and uprooted people will be on the verge of hunger. This funding situation has been going on for some time, she said.
"We have been delivering half rations since April 2022 because of limited funding and increased needs,' D'Aprile said, explaining that families affected by the conflict received or have been receiving less than 40 percent of their minimum caloric needs.
Around 4,000 people in Cabo Delgado have been killed and more than 1 million have been forced to flee their homes during five years of fighting between insurgents and Mozambique's army. The government's fight against the Islamist rebels is backed by troops from Rwanda and the regional bloc SADC, which is the Southern African Development Community.
U.N. officials said violence has intensified in recent months with unprecedented attacks in districts close to the provincial capital of Pemba and is spreading to neighboring provinces.
Speaking from the Mozambican capital of Maputo, D'Aprile said the attacks have pushed more people to flee their villages, leaving everything behind.
She described their condition as dire.
"These people are displaced and traumatized multiple times...50 percent of the people that are displaced are children,' she said. '... If the food insecurity gets worse, the first ones to suffer are children and women."
UNICEF reports some 33,000 children in Cabo Delgado are severely malnourished and need special nutritional feeding.
D'Aprile said WFP needs the international community to step in now to avert hunger in the short term. She said money also is needed to address the root causes of chronic food insecurity in Mozambique, so people can become self-sufficient.